Saturday, July 20, 2024

GOB introduces new regulations to contain the spread of COVID-19

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On Sunday, December 20th, new quarantine regulations will introduce a new curfew and limit inter-districting travel, particularly from the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts. Also, there will be further restrictions on public transportation capacity by 50%, the sale of alcohol, and new fines for employers and employees for violations against the regulations.

Minister of Health and Wellness Honourable Michel Chebat discussed the new regulations during a virtual press conference on Friday, December 18th. Chebat stated that in limiting traveling from the northern districts of Orange Walk and Corozal, it is necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, as these districts are experiencing a high number of positive cases and deaths. However, the mainland’s labour force that temporarily lives in San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, can still travel to these districts to return home. According to the measures presented, other non -essential traveling will be restricted.

New Regulations

File photo of passengers lined up for boat travel during COVID

Public Transportation, and Restaurants: Buses and Water Taxi Companies can only carry 50% capacity and must continue to sanitize and follow face mask protocols. Also, establishments such as restaurants can only reach 50% capacity of persons inside, including customers and staff members. As per safety measures, six feet must be maintained with visible markers in place. Restaurants can open for take-out, and only those with open-air seating can provide dine-ins.

In the case of bigger department stores, Justice of Peace will be assigned to ensure that safety regulations are maintained within the store. Business owners are expected to carry JP’s cost, and these payments will be made to the JP’s Association.

Safety Measures

Face masks must be worn when in public areas. There will be an exception for those at a private residence, driving alone or in the company of immediate family members of the same household. In San Pedro, persons driving golf carts are encouraged to wear a face mask, as these are not enclosed vehicles. Failure to wear a mask will result in a $500 fine. Businesses can also be fined up to $5,000 if they allow customers into their establishments without wearing a mask, while employees not wearing a mask could be fined $200. A distance of six feet must be maintained at all times. Violations can result in shutting the business down.

New Curfew

A curfew will be in place from 8PM to 5AM for adults and 6PM to 5AM for persons 16 and younger. Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries Honourable Kareem Musa said that exceptions would be made for essential workers in possession of a badge from his ministry.

Restrictions on sales of alcohol and gatherings

No alcohol can be sold between the hours of 6PM to 7AM. Exceptions will be made to restaurants located within a hotel. However, there was no confirmation if liquor sales will be limited to hotel guests or if outsiders can access such service.

No gatherings and certain establishments to remain closed

The new regulations called for no private gatherings. Households may have visitors, as long as the number of persons at the household at any one time does not exceed ten. This authorized number also applies to church services, weddings, and funerals. All illegal congregations exceeding this number or parties can be reported to the newly installed hotline: 0-800-PARTIES or 0-800-727-8432 for both BTL and Smart users.

Of note is that contact sports remain disallowed. People are discouraged from engaging in activities like football or basketball.

As has been the case for months, bars, nightclubs, gyms, and gaming establishments remain closed. Non-essential businesses are expected to put their employees on a shift system, and non-essential workers are expected to work from home. Essential services are considered those under health, tourism, banking, law enforcement, agriculture, and food.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Wellness provided an update on the COVID-19 vaccine. It is estimated that by March 2021, Belize will receive 238,000 vaccines, enough to cover 30% of the population based on the two required vaccinations per person. The vaccine will be obtained through the COVAX (GAVI alliance) and will be given to the most vulnerable members of the Belizean population.

The current number of infected persons in the country stands at 1,500 from 9,929 confirmed cases. A total of 8,214 have recovered, and 215 persons have perished.

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